Plans for a Future and a Hope
Jeremiah the prophet frequently spoke with the Lord and listened to His explanations of the future for Judah. His emotions were conflicting: He was angry that his people lied, committed adultery, and worshiped idols, but at the same time, he had compassion on them. He was truly an advocate for his people. After listing their sins, the Lord posed a question to Jeremiah: "Should I not punish them for this? Should I not avenge myself on such a nation as this?" (Jeremiah 9:9) The Lord's conclusion is the following: "I will make Jerusalem a heap of ruins." (Jeremiah 9:11) "It is because they have forsaken my law, which I set before them; they have not obeyed me or followed my law, instead, they have followed the stubbornness of their hearts..." (Jeremiah 9:13-14)
At the time when Babylon came to Judah their evil king, Jehoiachin, was only 18 years old and reigned for only three months. Jeremiah had warned the young king that the Lord was not pleased with him and that he would be handed over to King Nebuchadnezzar. Jeremiah was the only prophet that told the truth. He was in a constant battle with the false prophets. Just as Jeremiah prophesied, the people of Judah were overcome by the Babylonians, and many were taken into exile to Babylon. Afterward, Jeremiah had a vision of two baskets filled with figs. One basket was filled with fresh, ripe figs while the other was filled with rotten ones. The rotten figs represented those people who remained in Jerusalem or who left for Egypt. God made it clear that those in exile would be cared for. "I will watch over and care for them, and I will bring them back here again. I will build them up and not tear them down. I will plant them and not uproot them. I will give them hearts that recognize me as the Lord. They will be my people, and I will be their God, for they will return to me wholeheartedly." (Jeremiah 24:6-7 - NLT)
Encouraged by the Lord's words, Jeremiah wrote to the captives in Babylon with instructions to move forward with their lives and to pray for their captors. His letter to the exiles is contained in Jeremiah 29. "This is what the Lord of Heaven's Armies, the God of Israel, says to all the captives He has exiled to Babylon from Jerusalem: 'Build homes, and plan to stay. Plant gardens and eat the food they produce. Marry and have children. Then find spouses for them so that you may have many grandchildren. Multiply! Do not dwindle away! And work for the peace and prosperity of the city where I sent you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, for its welfare will determine your welfare.'" (Jeremiah 29:4-7 - NLT)
The Lord continued to give details of the plans He had for His people in captivity. "'You will be in Babylon for 70 years. But then I will come and do for you all the good things I have promised, and I will bring you home again. For I know the plans I have for you,' says the Lord. 'They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope. In those days when you pray, I will listen. If you look for me wholeheartedly, you will find me. I will be found by you,' says the Lord. 'I will end your captivity and restore your fortunes. I will gather you out of the nations where I sent you and will bring you home again to your own land.'" (Jeremiah 29:10-14 - NLT)
We cannot allow discouragement or dire circumstances or distressing situations to overcome us. We must move forward knowing that God is with us. "He will never leave you nor forsake you.” (Deuteronomy 31:6) Many of us are discouraged by the way our country seems to be headed and about the decisions our government leaders are making. Let's be encouraged (brought to courage) by the truth that nothing can separate us from the love of God. He has plans for our future. The exiles in Babylon were told to pray for the welfare of the nation where they lived. They were instructed to continue living their lives in the way they did in Jerusalem. We need to take these instructions to heart. Let us continue to live our lives in the fear and admonition of the Lord and to pray for those who are leading us at this moment. At the appointed time, the glory of the Lord will cover the earth and revival will spring up. We will see the transformation of our world as many come to know our Savior. The way we live our lives can be a testimony of God's love and peace to those who do not know Him yet. Our prayers will make a difference. The Lord looks for agreement from us for His plans for a hope and a future for us. Let us bring heaven's plans to earth!
For Such a Time as This
Did you ever think that when God placed you on the earth, He may have done so for you to accomplish one specific purpose? He planned the time and place that you would live. (Acts 17:26) He knew the circumstances that would surround you, the battles you would have to fight, and the thoughts that would go through your head. Consider that His divine purpose for you includes plans to elevate you and bring you closer to Him as you pursue victory. Perhaps you are in a battle right now and are facing a giant that seems impossible to defeat. I always say, "The greatness of the call determines the fierceness of the battle." Be conscious of the gifts you use to fight your battle, because through them God will reveal your destiny and will bring you into greater intimacy with Him.
Think of this: One day and one person can change the world and the future. When we tap into our destinies the power of heaven will come to earth to help us accomplish the goal that God has placed before us. It is fitting that we read the story of Esther in this month. It appears to me that she was a person that God sent to earth for one specific purpose: to make the king of Persia happy so that He would join her in saving her people, the Jews. Esther, along with her parents and cousin Mordecai, was part of the company of exiles brought to Babylonia by Nebuchadnezzar. When Esther's parents died, she was adopted by Mordecai. She was then selected to be part of the harem of King Xerxes of Persia at a time when a Jew hater named Haman, the kings highest official, was plotting to kill all the Jews in the empire. Because of her beauty and sensitivity to the king's desires, Esther was crowned queen. Mordecai asked her to take advantage of her position and beg for the king's mercy for the Jews. He posed this question: "Who knows if perhaps you were made queen for just such a time as this?" (Esther 4:14 - NLT)
Adar 13 was the date set by Haman to murder all the Jews in the Kingdom. We are presently in the month of Adar, which means strength. It is the last month on the Hebrew calendar and is associated with joy and a time of unexpected reversals. It is a time for uncovering hidden truth. I hope that these Adar characteristics give you hope as they do me. We have a moment in time where we can participate in the transformation of our own nation. God wants us to join in a prayer of unity for justice and righteousness to prevail in it. Never doubt that our presence as Bible-believing, God-loving people who dispense the fruits of the Spirit to those around us can make a difference. I believe that we are here "for such a time as this." We are on assignment to use the gifts within us to carry out God's call on our lives. Adar is the month to develop our war strategies against the enemy. Doing so helps to stop our fears ad gives us the ability to move into the fullness of the next season. The spiritual new year holds blessings for us. Let's be joyful about who God made us to be as we pursue our identities in the Spirit.
We see the attributes of the month of Adar played out in the Feast of Purim that occurs in the middle of the month. The enemy set a date for the destruction of the Jews, but God used a single Jewish girl, walking in her God-given destiny, to save her people and to transform that date into one of great joy and celebration. For three days, Esther stirred up her courage and prepared for her meeting with the king by spending time in fasting and prayer. Mordecai and the Jews of Susa joined her. She demonstrated to the Lord that her relationship with Him was more important than anything else by dedicating these three days to pursuing His direction. And, as she assured herself of God's faithfulness, she was able to prepare to go before King Xerxes without fear, saying, "And if I perish, I perish." (Esther 4:16)
Of course, Esther did not perish! The king extended his golden scepter to her, Haman's evil plan was exposed so that he and his family were destroyed, Mordecai was promoted, and the Jews transformed the focus of sunset on the 13th to sunset on the 15th of Adar to joy and celebration. These days are called Purim because Haman originally set the date for the demise of the Jews by casting dice or "pur." Even today Purim is celebrated by the Jews. They recognize the importance of one day and one person placed on the earth "for such a time as this." What is our holy purpose—the call of God on our lives? Let us pursue Him, our Maker and Creator, and live out our God-given destinies. Let us be the people God created us to be "for such a time as this."
Love That Gives It All
On my dressing table is a picture of two colorful parrots sitting side-by-side. There is an appropriate quote in the background of these two love birds. "Love has nothing to do with what you're expecting to get—only with what you are expecting to give—which is everything!" The quote comes from actress Katherine Hepburn. 1 Corinthians 13 gives us some words for the definition of love: "Love is large and incredibly patient. Love is gentle and consistently kind to all. It refuses to be jealous when blessing comes to someone else. Love does not brag about one's achievements nor inflate its own importance. Love does not traffic in shame and disrespect, nor selfishly seek its own honor. Love is not easily irritated or quick to take offense. Love joyfully celebrates honesty and finds no delight in what is wrong. Love is a safe place of shelter, for it never stops believing the best for others. Love never takes failure as defeat, for it never gives up. Love never stops loving...There are three things that remain: faith, hope, and love—yet love surpasses them all. So above all else, let love be the beautiful prize for which you run." (Verses 4-8, 13-14 - TPT)
Today, Valentine's Day celebrates romance and love. However, that is not how it originated. According to Wikipedia, Western Christianity made February 14 a minor yearly feast to honor a Christian martyr named Valentine. He was executed by the Roman emperor on this date during a time when persecution of Christians was common. The story is that he never lost his love during of the trials he endured. Eventually, he gave it all.
As Christians, it is important for us to understand the characteristics of God's love for us so that we can follow His lead. God's love is unconditional and is described by the Greek word "agape." Our focus must be intentionally centered on Jesus Christ because His love for us is the highest form of love and its demonstration will show us how we are to love others. The love of Jesus is faithful and sacrificial. Just as the Lord was willing to give up all His rights before Father God and man, we must be willing to do the same. To know what true love looks like, we must be willing to make the trip on the road to Calvary to see the Lord's sacrifice. Saint Valentine determined to take this walk and ultimately gave up his life for his love of Jesus.
The love that the Lord has for us is so amazing that He became our Substitute, our Scapegoat, on The Cross. He carried our sins in His own body on The Cross so that we might be forgiven. "He took up our pain and bore our suffering...He was pierced for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on Him, and by His wounds we are healed." (Isaiah 53:4-5) Romans 8:34 tells us just how far Jesus went for us and how He continues to help us: "...He gave His life for us, and even more than that, He has conquered death and is now risen, exalted, and enthroned by God at His right hand. So how could He possibly condemn us since He is continually praying for our triumph." (TPT) God's complete love for us should give us the desire to completely surrender to Him and His will.
In Isaiah 54:10 the Lord makes a promise to His people. "Though the mountains be shaken and the hills be removed, yet my unfailing love for you will never be shaken nor my covenant of peace be removed.” What are we expecting when we hear the word love? The love of God is calling to us. He gave it all! Can we do likewise? I think so because of what The Word of God tells us: "...The love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us." (Romans 5:5 - NKJ)
One small, withered leaf hangs on to a thin, curved branch on the Maple tree outside my door. It will not release and battles as the wind is relentless in shaking it violently. It should have released in the fall to accomplish its intended purpose—to fall and lie at the base of the tree where it would have joined the other leaves and soil to provide compost for the roots. When a leaf decomposes it goes into the ground and provides nutrients that can be taken in by the tree roots. It is meant to give strength and health to the tree so that it can produce new, green leaves when spring arrives—a new season.
Why doesn't the leaf release? Why doesn't it recognize that the season has changed, and that God has a new purpose for it? As for the leaf, God has set times and seasons for us. Every season comes to us with blessings and opportunities to grow in our faith and trust in God. The enemy does not want us to live in the right season or to obtain the Lord's blessings for our lives. We must wait upon the Lord and learn to think the way He thinks. We must let His truth transform us so that we fully release from one season and launch into the new one. Romans 12:2 is an appropriate Scripture to look at concerning our way of thinking. The Passion Translation of this verse ministers to me: "Stop imitating the ideals and opinions of the culture around you but be inwardly transformed by the Holy Spirit through a total reformation of how you think. This will empower you to discern God's will as you live a beautiful life, satisfying and perfect in His eyes."
In the book, A Time to Advance, Robert Heidler writes, "Blessing comes to those who align themselves with God's purposes and timing. God's cycles produce change and bring us to the higher level of blessing." We cannot step into blessing without following God's timing. He designed our lives to have seasons. There are set times for us to actively participate in God-given activities; there are times for us to rest, and there are times for us to prepare for a new season. Doing this requires that we trust in our Creator and Sustainer to give us what we need for each season. The leaf will not fulfill its divine purpose until it releases from the branch.
In Isaiah 43:18-19 God says, "Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up, do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland." How can we let go? Only by trusting in the Lord and His great love for us. We can expect God's best for us because He already gave His best to us: the sacrifice of His one and only Son, Jesus, so that we can have eternal life with Him. We can trust in the Lord's best for ourselves, the Body of Christ, and our nation. "And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purposes." (Romans 8:28)
Daniel 7 speaks of the end times and the evil king who will subdue other rulers. This demonically- possessed king "will speak against the Most High and oppress His holy people and try to change the set times and laws." (Verse 25) The enemy will lose his battle to change the set times because God already ordained the hour of his destruction. Galatians 4 also speaks of another set time for us to become children of God and heirs according to His promise. "But when the set time had fully come, God sent His Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those under the law, that we might receive adoption to sonship." (Galatians 4:4-5)
The writer of Ecclesiastes reminds us that "There is a time for everything and a season for every activity under the heavens." (Ecclesiastes 3:1) God changes seasons and sets times for all of us. We must trust Him with all our hearts and lean not on our own understanding. In all our ways we should acknowledge Him, and He will make our paths straight. (Proverbs 3:5-6) This requires us to be willing to release from the past season and to inquire of God about His plans for the new season. As it says in Romans 12:2, we will be empowered to discern God's will when we allow and invite the Holy Spirit to reform our way of thinking. Let's release from the old season and walk into the new with the Lord's guidance.
Joan E. Mathias